Thursday, January 03, 2008

I know this is a bit of a long post, but it's an important message i'd like to share from a friend of mine. something you can quickly do to help a great environmental organization and learn a few new things as well too!

Dear Friends,
From 2003-2004, I had the deeply enriching experience of working as the Communications Director for an innovative nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC called the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF). SELF combats both global climate change and severe poverty simultaneously by bringing solar power to rural villages in developing countries for improvements in health, education and economic well-being.
I've remained in close contact with SELF, occasionally working on contract or volunteering, and witnessing as the organization spreads its impact tremendously throughout Africa. Just this past year, SELF helped Bill Clinton and Partners in Health to solar-electrify 25 HIV clinics in rural Rwanda and Tanzania, providing health care to thousands of people living with the virus. SELF also provided solar electricity for water pumps, schools and micro-irrigation projects in other parts of Africa.

To help continue this amazing work, I'd like to share with you an incredible, seemingly "too good to be true", opportunity for you and SELF - an opportunity that will require not a penny by you and no more than 5 minutes of your time.

The Hinkle Charitable Foundation (HCF) has issued the Pure Waste Challenge to motivate you to become an agent against global warming. For each person who reads the following three primers, 'considers' pursuing any of the proposed conservation methods, and then sends an email confirmation to, HCF will donate $100 to the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF). A simple challenge capable of huge results! (It doesn't matter where you are in the world:)

It's easy -- just read the text below and then write to with your name, email address and a one-sentence confirmation that you read the primers, and SELF will receive $100! The Foundation has agreed to pay SELF up to $100,000 and so far 400 people have taken the challenge (so that's $40,000:). We need 600 more people! In less than five minutes, you can educate yourself on ways to help the environment, save money, AND donate to an extraordinary organization without losing a penny of your own money! There is no catch, just pure goodness all around!

Once you've taken the challenge yourself, consider forwarding this email to your friends, families and colleagues and thereby dramatically increasing your impact.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to make a difference. It's the little actions we take every day that go a long way!

Start reading here:.............

(1) Compact Fluorescent Lights Primer
Fluorescent light bulbs get a bad, and badly outdated, rap. Technological advances in the last twenty years have introduced the compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) with electronic ballast and, in the process, have eliminated three of the four most common objections to fluorescent lights.

Myth 1: Fluorescent lights flicker.
Yep, they used to. Modern CFLs, with their electronic ballasts, do not flicker.

Myth 2: Fluorescent lights are slow to start.
While CFLs don’t start at full intensity like incandescent bulbs, nearly all CFLs turn on (without flicker) instantly and reach full illumination very quickly. Of the nearly thirty different types we’ve tested, all come on instantly at close to full illumination. Only the flood light styles start at noticeably less than full illumination, but within 20 to 30 seconds they are at over 80% illumination. Interestingly, we’ve come to prefer softer initial illumination. When we enter a room the slightly softer initial illumination is more welcoming, and the CFL is easily at full illumination by the time we begin any light-dependent tasks.

Myth 3: Fluorescent lights are always cold-feeling and remind us of office lighting.
Older, standard, long fluorescent tubes do emit a cool (bluish) light (4,500+ Kelvin, see Kelvin definition below), but today there are CFLs in a complete range of hues, and many CFLs are available that produce exactly the same warm white light (2,700 to 3,000 Kelvin) as traditional incandescent bulbs.

Myth 4: Fluorescent lights won’t fit in my fixtures, candelabra, or recessed lights.
We agree that this can still be a problem in certain situations. A CFL is often not an exact size substitute for an existing incandescent bulb, but a far greater range of sizes is available than is generally realized. We’ve already successfully substituted standard, globe, flood, candelabra, three-way and dimmable bulbs. To get the widest range of shapes, it is often necessary to shop online or at a lighting store.

The EPA’s Energy Star rating, when applied to CFLs, insures the buyer of a CFL that it comes on instantly, comes quickly to full illumination, is a warm/soft white hue (unless marked otherwise on the package) and renders colors with excellent accuracy. Are CFLs the same as the traditional incandescent bulbs with which we are familiar? No. But as discussed below, they are significantly cheaper to operate in the long run, are much better for the environment, and enjoy a number of other advantages.

(2) Tankless Water Heater Primer
Hot water usage in American households consumes between 15 and 30% of a home’s energy demand, according to the US Department of Energy. Surprisingly, the technology used to heat water in the US is antiquated and highly inefficient when compared to the tankless or on-demand technologies now used regularly in Europe and Asia . This primer attempts to explain the new technology and benefits behind whole-house natural gas-fueled tankless water heaters (TWHs).

Myth 1: Only a tank can provide a large amount of hot water.
Heating a tank of hot water is neither an effective nor an efficient way to supply hot water. As hot water drains from the tank, in-flowing cold water lowers the overall temperature of the water in the tank. Traditional tank-based water heaters are not designed to heat the in-flowing cold water rapidly enough to keep the out-flowing water at a constant temperature. In contrast, properly sized TWH systems are designed to keep out-flowing water at a constant temperature.

Myth 2: A tankless hot water system can’t provide enough continuous hot water for an entire household.
The reality is that the heat-exchanger technology used in TWHs is specifically designed to provide a full and inexhaustible flow of appropriately heated water to an entire household.

Myth 3: Tankless water heaters must heat the water so hot that it is dangerous to use them.
Actually this fear is more relevant to traditional tank-based water heaters than to TWH systems. Tankless systems are safer to operate since they heat the water to only slightly above the level of intended use. Traditional tank-based water heaters have to overheat the stored water so that it will remain hot enough as the in-flowing cold water mixes with it.

Myth 4: Tankless water heating systems cost more to operate.
Like any profitable investment there is an immediate outlay of cash, but when you factor in the lower operating cost and longer (20-year) service life, TWHs save their owners a substantial amount of money. In fact, it is difficult to construct a scenario where owners of a new natural gas TWH system will earn a return on investment of less than 45%.

(3) Anti-Idling Primer
Old habits are hard to break. To most, idling a car may seem fairly innocuous, but it is actually detrimental to the modern automotive engine, wastes gasoline, and is often done based on mistaken assumptions or outdated logic, or simply out of habit. Each day, Americans waste approximately 3.8 million gallons of gasoline by voluntarily idling their cars. While all idling is bad for the car engine, this primer addresses only voluntary idling, which occurs when the car is not actually being driven in traffic. (Of course, the best way to address involuntary idling, which occurs in traffic, is to buy a hybrid, but we realize that most people are not yet ready to sell their conventional cars and replace them with non-idling hybrids.) There are, however, easy steps owners of conventional cars can take to help the cause.

Myth 1: Cars should run in an idling mode for several minutes before being driven.
Wrong. Modern engines do not need more than a few seconds of idling time before they can be driven safely. Moreover, the best way to warm up a car is to drive it, since that warms up the catalytic converter and other mechanical parts of the car, in addition to the engine.

Myth 2: Each time you start your car you waste more gasoline than if you let it idle.
Wrong. Automotive engines do not operate efficiently when they idle. Experts say there is a maximum 10 second break-even rule. If you are idling longer than 10 seconds, both you and the engine are better off if the engine is turned off and restarted.

Myth 3: Repeatedly restarting your car is hard on the engine and quickly drains the battery.
Wrong. Frequently restarting your engine does negligible damage to the engine and does not drain modern batteries excessively. In fact, the opposite is true; idling an engine forces it to operate in a very inefficient and gasoline-rich mode that, over time, can degrade the engine’s performance and reduce mileage.

When not actively driving, people tend to idle their cars largely for one of two reasons: either to warm up the engine before driving or to avoid wear and tear on the engine in situations that require frequent restarting, such as drive-through service lines, rail crossings, car wash lines, carpool lines, and departure from concerts and sporting events, or while talking to friends or using the cell phone. By understanding the effects of idling and reducing the practice, you can improve your car’s performance, save money, and reduce needless carbon dioxide emissions.

Now that you've read the three primers, please write to with your name, email address and a one-sentence confirmation that you read the primers, and SELF will receive $100!

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